Haverhill Council to Consider Final Hunking School Price Tag; City Permit Cost May be Sticking Point

Hunking School (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

Although Haverhill’s new Caleb Dustin Hunking School has been open for more than four years, the city is only now closing out the finances of what was a $61.5 million building project.

City Councilors tonight are expected to make their case again that the city project should never have been assessed, what some call, an arbitrary $300,000 building permit fee. In the spring of 2017, councilors led by Colin F. LePage, voted to have the disputed building permit fee removed from the construction budget before final bills are totaled for the city’s portion of the project. With councilors being asked to transfer $177,024 to cover remaining Hunking construction costs, LePage plans to raise the matter again.

“It appears to be $177,000 over budget and, without the $300,000 building permit fee, it would have been under budget,” he said.

The council’s 2017 vote turned out to be symbolic since it was not part of a formal order or ordinance, but three years ago today when councilors asked again for the refund, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said it was too late. He said the fee was used for education and other city expenses

The Hunking School construction project now totals $61.7 million with the state picking up almost 80% of the cost. Councilors will decide tonight whether to approve transferring the difference from the Whittier Asbestos Removal capital account to “cover all final costs” calculated by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

The building permit fee was not among items the state would reimburse and was expected to be paid by taxpayers with interest over 20 years outside of the tax-limiting law, Proposition 2 ½.

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